HART: Waffle House is great — its press of late is not

Ronald J. Hart
Ronald J. Hart

The great Southern tradition, Waffle House, has had its share of controversy lately. The well-run restaurants that are open 24/7/365 are a staple of college kids' late night, post-party drunk dining. Some of my friends and I got thrown out of a Pensacola Waffle House after Walker threw one of the 8-pound ashtrays at Bill. There is no lower honor or exhilarating moment than to be asked to leave a Waffle House moments before the police arrive.

If the ashtrays don’t get ya, the fried food will. Waffle House food has probably killed more Southerners than the Union Army, the lottery, and three-wheelers combined. But it is good, quick and consistent food we all love.

So when this nut job punk from Illinois shot up a Waffle House near my hometown in Tennessee, I took it personally. Local James Shaw Jr., the courageous patron who charged and chased out the deranged shooter, was a real hero. This shows the lengths Southerners will go to protect their Waffle House.

The left wants to ban guns again after this. As with the Parkland school shooter, there were obvious and troubling signs. He, too, had had many run-ins with the law. The Secret Service took his guns away, but then they gave them to his dad — who gave the guns right back to him.

What? Our many gun laws don’t work on the honor system?

This demented kid wore a dress, thought Taylor Swift wanted him, could handle a gun, didn’t think laws applied to him, and was deluded by self-aggrandizing stories of his own personal integrity.

The owner of Waffle House is a connected, hard-nosed Georgia businessman whom I’ve always liked. He got himself in a pickle when he started having his maid churn his butter during naked massages. She videotaped the nefarious episodes and tried to get some money from him through some lawyers. We think of it as extortion, but lawyers call it their business model. Judges let their brother lawyers off on extortion charges, of course, but they let the businessman go after his poor maid on a home-cooked and broad interpretation of a Byzantine outlier “eavesdropping” law in Georgia. The law still mentions “telegraphs.”

Instead of settling the case, he went to trial and was eviscerated. Lawyers, DAs, private dicks and an FBI agent all testified that it was legal to record the encounters. The theory of the prosecutor was that this private tape deprived him of “dignity.” So then they played his sex tape in open court. He sounded smothered, and was clearly not covered.

He’s also a big Republican donor. He even named a dish at Waffle House after the Clinton and Obama legacies: toast.

“Waffle House cooks have wonderful memories,” notes a framed 1992 column in the Waffle House Museum by my friend, Southern-fried author Lewis Grizzard. “They can be frying six eggs, four pieces of bacon and have two waffles in the iron at the same time and listen to three waitresses yelling out orders and it all registers and they rarely get an order wrong.” He went on to say, “There ought to be a lot of ex-Waffle House cooks in Congress. Maybe they wouldn’t forget what the voters elected them to do.”

A libertarian op-ed humorist and award-winning author, Ron is a frequent guest on CNN. He can be contacted at or @RonaldHart on Twitter.